Can Jose Bautista maintain homer pace? 

July, 11, 2011
Back in March, when it seemed like few people believed Toronto Blue Jays outfielder/third baseman Jose Bautista could even approach his lofty 54 home runs from 2010, I tried to argue in favor of the journeyman-turned-slugger. He had remade his swing from his Pittsburgh Pirates days, added valuable plate discipline and looked every bit legitimate to me. I predicted 40 home runs for "Joey Bats" this season, and frankly, considering no other American League player hit 40 homers last season, I felt he would lead the league.

Of course, even that prediction looks ridiculous today. Bautista might reach 40 home runs this month. He's already at 31 blasts, thanks in part to a recent stretch in which he has hammered seven home runs in the first 10 days of July, and it's to the point I'm almost surprised when a game goes by that he doesn't go yard. He is a fantasy monster, the best fantasy player in the game -- yes, better than Albert Pujols -- and not to go too obvious on everyone, I see a big second half for him across the board. In fact, I don't even see any argument against him.

After Bautista cleans up in Monday night's Home Run Derby -- and he will, because nobody's swing is better tailored for this event -- he's going to keep on slugging during the final 10 weeks. So, as has become an All-Star break ritual for me, let's predict the final home run totals for the eight gentlemen scheduled to compete in the derby. And as you'll see, I don't buy into any theories that swings get messed up in the Derby and contribute to poor second halves. These are human beings. Multiple factors can be blamed for inconsistent performance, and a glorified batting practice wouldn't rank at the top of the list.